Violence against children called epidemic here and everywhere

There is a growing epidemic of child violence in not just Costa Rica but the world, according to a panel of lawmakers and child care experts. The suggested solutions includes regulating pornography, television programs and toys that youngsters receive.

The panel came together Thursday at the Asamblea Legislativa to discuss the effects of violence against children. Violence was described as physical, emotional or sexual. Also included was negligence and commercial exploitation.

According to the social work director at the Hospital Nacional de Niños, Ana Virginia Quesada Morales, infant deaths have quadrupled between 2009 and 2012.

Rodolfo Hernández Gómez, Hospital director, said that child abuse is a problem of social health and is seen everyday. He cited the biblical account of Cain and Abel where a jealous brother killed his sibling.

Also, he listed fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, where a witch tried to eat two kids and Little Red Riding Hood where a wolf tried to eat a young girl visiting her grandmother. The culture extends to the television and computer. This makes it a learned behavior, said Hernández. He urged control of pornography and toys, too,

Not coincidentally, a legislative commission has approved and sent to the full body a measure to strengthen penalties for child pornography and for displaying pornography to children.
Child violence has irreversible damage to the brain and development, said another participant. From birth to 6 months of age, the brain is most vulnerable. Of infants abused, 10 percent of cases result in mental disorders or cerebral paralysis, said Beatriz Cordero Huertas, director of Maestría de Estimulación Temprana at Universidad Santa Paula in Curridabat.

Later, children are left feeling alone, sad, abandoned and lose respect for authority figures, she said, adding that as adults, these children run risks of performing violent acts, being depressed, obese, fighting addiction or being suicidal, she said.

Costa Rica has a law since 2008 called Abolición del Castigo Físico Contra Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes, geared to protect children’s rights. Under the law it is illegal for children to receive punishment that is deemed excessive or humiliating.

It also empowers the court to place mistreated children into adoptive homes.

However the law needs much work and lacks application, said Gloria Bejarano Almada, a lawmaker.

“Many things can wait. The children, no. Now their bones are forming, their blood is producing and their feelings are developing. To them we cannot say tomorrow. Their name is today,” said Ms. Cordero, the academic.

Ms. Cordero was quoting Chilean poet and activist Gabriela Mistral. Her emphasis was the same as her colleagues, everyone must come together to change the culture of child abuse by educating the public.

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